Like a slow-starting car in the winter, the 8th grade boys at Magen David Yeshivah were quiet at first, but by the end of the hour spent with The SAFE Foundation’s addiction therapists, Sean Kensing, CASAC-G, and Laura Mizrahi, LMHC, the discussion was revving right along.
The purpose of their visit on that morning in early December was to open a conversation about the warning signs of addiction and how to reach out for confidential help.
Some of the kids wanted to know if playing fantasy sports, watching too much TV, spending too much time on the Internet, and buying lotto tickets are forms of addictions.
The counselors addressed all inquiries. They especially highlighted in each of their replies that the signs of an addiction are when a person is preoccupied with something and is unable to stop the behavior, even though he or she is experiencing negative consequences.
Mr. Kensing and Mrs. Mizrahi advised, “The worst thing a person can do if having some of these symptoms is to retreat into a shell of secrecy. The best thing one can do is share the problem with someone trustworthy.
“It is never too early to get help with a problem or to simply ask a question.” They continued. “When it comes to addiction, waiting too long may be very detrimental. When a person with an addiction problem progresses, they’ll be feeling a powerful loss of control and may be sensing that they don’t even have a choice when it comes to being free from their addiction.”
Mr. Kensing explained that when someone calls SAFE with a problem, he or she is met with support, rather than with shame. A caller in distress will be told, “So sorry to hear that you are experiencing that. Let’s see what we can do for you.”
SAFE’s Director of School Programs Yehudah Alcabes, LMSW, CASAC, said that he found the exchange between the addiction therapists and the students to be very valuable. He said, “It opened their minds to thinking about and dealing with problems and about recognizing the signs of an addiction before it is too late. It is just part of what we are doing at SAFE to raise awareness and prevent problems.”
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